Achieving social justice is an imperative for our civilization and for our quality of life – for every one of us. And like so many goals we cherish, the pursuit of fairness and harmony can be – and should be – meaningfully addressed in education, especially in the elementary school years.
At the elementary school level in the United States, for example, we have a wonderful opportunity to present students with a balanced and honest view of the treatment of Native Americans, African Americans, Asians, immigrants, migrant workers, minorities and the many relegated to living in poverty. Doing this properly gives our young people a better ethical base, one that helps this next generation of leaders imagine and implement policy that finally delivers social justice.
While recognizing problems in our collective history, it also helps highlight extraordinary positives; brilliant examples of good deeds and thoughtful, compassionate creativity. At Alexander Robertson School, we have a particularly inspiring story from within our very halls.
ARS was founded, in part, by Katy Ferguson, an African American woman born into slavery in 1772. At the age of seven, Katy began attending The Second Presbyterian Church, which was then located downtown. Pastor Mason’s sermons had a profound effect on Katy, and when she was fourteen, Pastor Mason invited her to come down from the balcony of the Church and join the white congregants for Communion. At the time, this was a bold social action on his part, and one that upset many in the congregation. Nevertheless, the Minister held to his conviction.
The next year, in 1787, Katy’s devotion led her to start a Sunday school, the first documented “Sunday School” at any church. A year later, Pastor Mason and a group of congregants pooled resources to buy Katy out of slavery and into freedom. By 1789, Katy’s Sunday School – which was racially integrated – began classes on weekdays, too. Katy’s students were one of three groups that were combined in 1789 to form the Alexander Robertson School.
Our school’s genesis rests firmly on universal principles and values of freedom, equality, integration, spiritual openness and loving pursuit of education. Two hundred and thirty-one years later, ARS continues its history of inclusion, diversity, morality and academic excellence. There is a classroom named in Katy Ferguson’s honor with a hallway mural recently commissioned depicting Ms. Ferguson’s life.